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China's massive plan to control the weather


It has the money. It has the manpower. It has the political will.

China is setting forth to change the weather.

According to Chinese media, the state-owned Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation of China has begun to turn just such a plan into reality.

It’s starting work on producing thousands of rainmaking machines. These will be scattered across the Himalayan Tibetan Plateau.

Each machine is supposed to be able to seed the sky in such a way as to produce a 5km-long storm-cloud on-demand. Put together, the weather-making array is intended to irrigate 1.6 million square kilometers with 10 billion cubic centimeters of water each year. That’s about the size of New South Wales and Victoria combined.

They’ve done it before, on a smaller scale.

For the 2008 Beijing Olympics, $40 million was spent firing chemical pellets into the clouds. This compelled the clouds to rain early, before they could burst above the games.

Now, Beijing is upscaling the idea.


The project involves activating pre-positioned machines to project a fine dust of silver iodide into the sky. The machines are positioned next to known updrafts, lifting the particles high into the atmosphere.

Once among the more humid air currents, the fine grains cause water to condense about themselves. Thus raindrops are seeded. And clouds form where there would have been none.

The motive? Climate change is bringing reduced rainfalls to vital cropland.

For the same reason, some 52 countries are exploring similar technologies. But none on a scale remotely approaching that of this new Chinese project.

The mountains of Tibet are where much of China’s water already comes from. The rivers Yangtze, Mekong and Yellow rivers all trace their source to the glacial melts and snowfall of the plateau.

But such a project is likely to have fallout.

Particularly, much of the rain which would once have fallen on Pakistan, India and Nepal may no longer get so far.

This story originally appeared in